Strong production boosts mood

Eastern European professionals see Berlin’s EFM as a litmus test for the coming year.

The strength and volume of business that buyers and sellers experience during the market are likely to affect confidence well into 2010, biz insiders say.

With EFM regarded as a key market for regional players — more attend the February event than November’s American Film Market — business plans so far are unaffected by the global downturn, many say.

Polish broadcaster Telewizja Polska (TVP), producer of Berlinale competition entry “Tatarak” (Sweet Rush) from Andrzej Wajda, says that so far it remains confident.

“We have not changed our business strategy, at least not yet, as the film industry here remains quite strong still, although the possible effects of the worldwide recession will only start to be truly visible in two to three months,” says Aleksandra Biernacka, TVP’s festival coordinator.

EFM is seen as a bellwether market, with “possible changes in pricing” of TVP product being one outcome after the market closes. “The EFM will be crucial in coming to decisions for 2009,” Biernacka says.

Apart from the new Wajda film, fresh product on TVP’s Berlin slate includes “The Magic Tree,” directed by Andrzej Maleszka, based on the children’s TV series of the same name.

Other Eastern European film professionals have a similarly robust approach to business at this year’s EFM.

Agnieszka Odorowicz, head of the Polish Film Institute, notes that “the economic crisis has not yet impacted the Polish film industry, where the average film budget of around E1 million is similar to last year and the production budget of the institute for 2009 is actually 10% higher than last year.”

John Riley, a Czech Republic-based freelance sales rep as well as development and international relations manager for Prague’s Negativ Film Prods., says state film funding in Central and Eastern Europe means that many producers were able to rely on funds that had already been committed.

“I detect virtually no change in business approaches in the region, although the picture may be different by the end of the year,” he says.

Negativ’s hot property is animated “Alois Nebel,” the Czech Republic’s first digitally toon feature, which garnered much interest at Rotterdam, where it took part in CineMart.

“Looking back on deals we’ve done since last September or October, the prices we’ve been getting have been relatively stable, although I was a bit unhappy with some cable and satellite deals,” Riley says.

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